In the three months since I gave birth to my son, I’ve been on a steeeeeep learning curve. Let’s face it: before my pregnancy, I hadn’t practiced the basics like feeding or changing a baby almost since my girlhood when I played with dolls–which don’t move or starve.

So, with a lot of trial and error–and an eye on my checking account–here are some hacks I’ve discovered:

CHANGING

While cloth diapering can be daunting, it does save money! Check out the many numerous resources online to see how to do it, and be on the lookout among your friend-circle for a used set of these diapers, since the initial cost can be steep. Yep, I did say *used* diapers. They wash well – that’s the point!

But if you’re intimidated by cloth diapers, there is another, smaller DIY, cost-saving-approach to diaper changing that is a lot less scary that you could try: making your own wipes. Think about it: how hard could it be? They’re wet, semi-sanitized pieces of layered tissue paper!

Not to mention — pick up a package and look at the ingredients sometime; you might be shocked to see parabens and a lot of other unhealthy chemicals listed as part of the solution in the store-bought wipes. Yikes!

Here’s the recipe for the version I’ve created:

  • 1/4 gal. purified nursery water
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil (antifungal, anti-yeast/thrush, anti-diaper rash)
  • 3 TBSP hydrogen peroxide (for non-stinging antiseptic)
  • 1 TBSP baby soap of your choice (I chose the Aveeno, since Zeke’s skin is sensitive!)
  • 1 high-quality roll of paper towels
  • 1 empty canister-style package of wipes; you can also use a clean coffee can with a hole cut in the lid
  1. Mix the liquid ingredients into a solution in a CLEAN bowl (bonus: mix it in a pot on the stove that you’ve heated for 10 minutes and have let cool in advance; this makes for an ultra-sanitized mixing environment).
  2. Cut the roll of paper towels in half using a serrated knife or table saw; remove the cardboard tube in the middle. Set one of the half-rolls aside for later use.
  3. Soak the half-roll of paper towel in the solution; lift it out and let it drip a bit.
  4. Place the half-roll into the canister, and pull out the first sheet from the center through the hole in the lid to begin dispensing tear-off wipes. That’s it!

Using this method, you can produce about 200 wipes for roughly $.80. That’s a cost savings of $2.00-3.00 every roll, depending on where you shop.  And as a bonus: these ingredients are better for baby than many wipes on the market!

(BREAST)FEEDING

I have always hated pumping, but I have found that it’s useful to have some of my milk collected and frozen for those rare date nights or times when I needed to head into work and leave the baby with my hubby or my mom/mother-in-law. Rather than drag out the pump and all its parts, however, I started a supply hoard by making the most of the leaky, over-production period during weeks 4-8 of the breastfeeding journey by collecting those drips!

Why pay $28 for milk dripping collectors? That’s just cray-cray.

The DIY steps to making my own milk-collecting bag(s) were pretty easy:

  1. Before breastfeeding the baby at night when milk production is highest, take a plastic sandwich bag and use masking tape to tape the opening all the way around the areola of the nipple you aren’t offering to the baby at the moment.
  2. Collect the drips in the bag on that side while baby is feeding from the other.
  3. Pour the drippings into a freezable milk storage tube/container; keep the container in the fridge until your next feeding. Dispose of the bag.
  4. Within two feedings (3 hours, at that time of my lactation journey) repeating steps 1-3, you should have close to a full tube (2.5 oz) of collected milk. Go freeze that sucker!

TRAVELING

I had my baby right before the heat of the Dog Days of summer… and that has made hot, sticky car travel somewhat of a pain. Especially since we spent our first three months of his life living in an apartment where our car (and the car seat) was not well protected from the heat of the sun.

To make sure baby Zeke didn’t suffer from discomfort on days when it took a half hour for the air-conditioning to beat the heat, I came prepared with this homemade baby-cooling kit:

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What is this, you ask?  It’s a gel freezer pack, similar to the kind packed with box lunches and medical supplies for shipping, and one of those super-fuzzy socks your matronly aunt likes to get you for Christmas.  I just stuff the freezer pack into the fuzzy sock…and BOOM, instant baby comfort. Cool and soft!

I keep a pair in the freezer, so all I have to do is grab one on the way out the door. This is where I tuck it when we go bye-bye in the car:

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That’s a cool and comfy baby, right there.

It’s amazing the difference it makes, and how much time it saves.  Now we don’t have to wait for fifteen minutes for the car to cool down completely before taking off. We just pop this thing in his seat for a minute, cooling the spot where his little butt will go, and then we put him in and rest his feet and legs over the sock in a reversal of the old-school warming bricks that people used to use in carriages to beat the winter chill. As you can see here, he rests pretty comfortably on even the hottest days with his little cool-sock.

As a bonus, this washable, portable little cooling system also can slide against his belly when I carry him in a sling or Ergo carrier against my body, keeping both of us cooler!

That’s all my tips for now. I’m still figuring out a lot of this stuff! Please share your discoveries and ideas below!

Best wishes,

Ruth

So, I had a baby May 20, and I had gained 45 pounds by that last day of pregnancy. See here for a recap.

Slowly and steadily, as I had planned in the previous post, the past three weeks of post pregnancy fitness have gone by. Here are the highlights:

  • Longest jog: 1.2 miles (yep, I’m wimpy, but it’s hot and my cardio levels are still awful), 14-minute mile seems to be my speed (yep, I’m slow)
  • Rectus abdominus muscles seem to have fully closed and function well again!
  • Down to 153.6 pounds (a 3.5 pound loss since 4 weeks ago…meaning I’m actually slowing down my loss a bit). I’ve still got 15.6 pounds left to go to my pre-pregnancy weight.  Still, an overall loss of 29.4 pounds in just 63 days since giving birth is not bad!
  • My waist is now down to 31.25″, which is a .75″ loss; 3 more inches to go.
  • 0.5″ off my hips (40.5″)…1.5 inches to go!
  • No thigh measurement change. 😦
Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go! 157 lbs.

6 weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go! 157 lbs.

9 weeks postpartum, at 153.6 pounds...and a little bloated from too much bread!

9 weeks postpartum, at 153.6 pounds…and a little bloated from too much bread!

Fighting the Belly Flab

To help retone my belly, which has quite a pooch, I’ve actually dug up an old favorite of my mom’s fitness books from the ’80s: Callanetics. If you don’t know much about it, it combines elements of Pilates with ballet in an attempt to retone the body. I tried one of the basic stomach exercises (that I remembered doing experimentally on and off since age 10, when I first discovered this book on the shelf) and realized how VERY far I have to go yet. The muscles are there, and are, indeed, closed, but they are weak! I’m going to keep at it, though. We’ll see how we do!
callanetics

And now as I focus on my nutrition as a contributor to that belly, I’m noticing a few things about my diet: even though I’ve cut back on meat and a little of my dairy intake (replacing with calcium rich almond milk), I’m still relying heavily on bread. I had a terrible bread addiction while pregnant, and now that the baby is here, I’m relying on it as a form of fast energy to grab one-handed  while I schlep the little one on my hip.

The Baby-Caretaker Diet

Zeke is still at that early stage of babyhood where he doesn’t like to be put down (and will scream if you try to) until it’s actually time for him to sleep at night — and this really does affect how/when/what I can eat.

The beautiful meals I would like to make myself, like elaborate salads or lovely vegan meals that take a lot of raw-material prep, oftentimes never move past the idea stage because my hands are literally full of baby. The reality is, when my hubby isn’t home to hold and entertain our 9-week old, my meal prep time is maybe 20 minutes tops while Zeke takes his mini-naps during the late afternoon.  I’m relying quite heavily on Trader Joe’s frozen vegetarian options that take minutes to heat in a skillet or can be thrown in the oven, in addition to some bagged salads, as a way to get healthy food in for dinner.

But in the morning and midmorning, when it’s all I can do to drag my tired self around after getting up to feed the baby several times that preceding night, and while I’m trying to placate the little tyrant (who is also crabby in the mornings) while I try to do simple things like brush my teeth or get dressed, an elaborate breakfast is out of the question. Smoothies might be my answer–and have been sometimes–but who the heck has time to clean the stupid blender?  I’ve had to go days between smoothies while the blender just sort of grossly soaked in a soapy version of its fruit and Kale and kefir glory, waiting by the sink for me to get around to cleaning all its nooks and crannies. ::sigh::

Folks, I now truly and deeply respect the moms who struggle with the weight issue after having a baby. It is rough trying to take care of yourself when you have a little someone who wants you 24/7!

But I’m not giving in yet.  Here’s my game plan for dealing with this:

1. Try to capitalize on baby’s naps to do prep-steps towards good meals during the day.  I’m learning that everything has to be done in bites and stages with a baby interrupting daily life. That goes for actions like cleaning (it may take me literally all day to vacuum the whole apartment in stages), cooking, and answering emails or doing work projects.

2. Use the time when my hubby’s home to do meal prep for future days (see above, only more ambitious). This will be hard to do, since I’m also now using a lot of that time to do things like shower, jog, SLEEP (oh, man, do I miss sleep) or do work from my regular job, which I’m transitioning slowly back into.  But being able to stockpile healthy eats in the freezer is kind of a dream of mine.

3. Exercise with the baby. I’ll be honest guys, in these past three weeks, I’ve been running twice. TWICE.  The rest of my exercise regime has been taking Zeke for walks or doing floor work while the baby’s asleep, but I’m starting to think that I can maybe put him in his boppy next to me on the floor for yoga, use him as a secondary weight while I do plies, or maybe even wear him while I do Zumba DVDs. A jogging stroller is unfortunately beyond my budget, so I’ll just have to do what I can in the running/jogging department. I have accepted this.

4. Use the nighttime gap to help with the breakfast issue.  There is a little gap between when Zeke finally goes down at about 10:30 and when I follow him after cleaning up and putting on my jammies.  Loathe as I am to give up much of this time to not sleeping, I’m finding that it’s often my only uninterrupted time, since Zeke settles in for a good 3-hour snooze sesh before waking again for his 1:30-2:00 a.m. feeding.  There are some lovely recipes for blender-free overnight oats over at www.rabbitfoodformybunnyteeth.com that contain ingredients like almond milk, fresh fruit, oats, cinnamon, flax seed, chia seeds, even chocolate and coconut — that I’m going to try out, since after they’re mixed, they can go in the fridge overnight to get soggy and smoothie-like. They are made of the sorts of things that give great energy in slow release form, due to the high fiber content. And they’re a little lower in gluten, sugar, and yeast than toast, since they’re oat-based. I’m hoping it will combat the bloat a bit.

Wish me luck!  I’m off to bed after making my oats. I’m trying to get it done by midnight!

Ruth

So, I have a confession to make: by the time I gave birth on May 20, I weighed 183 pounds.

Huge! Just days before delivery at my hubby's graduation from seminary.

Huge! Just days before delivery at my hubby’s graduation from seminary.

I am 5’4″; I weighed 138 pounds pre-pregnancy. That’s a total pregnancy gain of 45 pounds!

By the time I left the hospital just two days after giving birth, I weighed 17 pounds less, thankfully! Baby, placenta, blood, uterine shrinkage, and a lot of water weight played a role in that weight loss, I’m sure. But at 166 pounds, I still had a long road to haul when I came home.

I waited until my 6-week postpartum checkup this past week before really thinking too much about the weight issue. I was glad to see I’m now down 9 more pounds (157 lbs) seemingly without trying. I’ve been very focused on my baby and making sure he grows and gains, so it’s been easy to ignore my own chub, for the most part, while passively donating my fat store’s calories to my breast milk.

But pictures like the ones below from Zeke’s dedication ceremony at church definitely remind me that, while my body did great work making a beautiful baby, it’s also become a whole new shape, complete with wobbly arms and thighs, Buddha belly, and muffin top!

At Zeke's church dedication. The baby chub is only cute on the baby.

At Zeke’s church dedication. The baby chub is only cute on the baby.

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Pregnancy really changes the body: it tilts the pelvis (creating a swayback that throws the belly forward and allows the buttocks to get flat and flabby), causes shoulders to curve inward as the body curls and slightly collapses in around that huge belly, opens and temporarily widens the lower ribcage, loosens all ligaments in the body and pelvis, leaves flabby, loose skin on the belly, adds stretch marks in some places, creates huge stores of water in the body’s cells, builds up 50% more blood in circulation, and separates the rectus abdominus muscles on the sides of the abdomen to make room for a watermelon-sized uterus. Let’s not even discuss how the thoracic organs get shoved around to make room as a part of that process.

After you give birth, it takes around 6 weeks for the uterus to go through involution and shrink back to pear-size, for your organs to slide back into some places near their old locales, and for the ligaments to firm back up as pregnancy hormones recede and excess water leaves the cells of the body. At the same time, new hormones flood your bloodstream and bond you to your baby while also turning on the milk production process in your breasts, which become very engorged, enlarged, and soft. During all of this transition, your body still has to deal with the fat stores you gained during pregnancy on your hips, thighs, tummy and breasts, putting some of it to use (300-500 calories a day!) by enriching breast milk and retaining the rest as a source of backup-reserve. Overall, your body becomes a soft, squishy landscape that resembles less of an hourglass and more of a pudgy cylinder with boobs!

Beyond breastfeeding’s gift of calorie use, dropping that extra retained baby weight is a tricky game with a baby to care for. Drop weight too quickly and your body freaks out and stops making breast milk–as a way to keep from expending calories that your body seems to need, while simultaneously starving your poor baby!

My doctor is convinced that the only healthy way to go about it is nice and slowly, using exercise to re-tone the body and to burn just a few calories at a time, while remembering that the body uses 300-500 or so calories daily just to make breast milk for the baby. Crash diets don’t fit in this scenario, although good nutrition certainly does–for mom and baby both.

To that end, I’ve started some clean eating goals and recently started jogging again for the first time in over 7 months. The first jog last week was pretty pathetic–about nine-tenths of a mile before I felt winded (yeah, my lungs are still relearning how to expand to full capacity again) and my faster-twitch muscle fibers really burned. I came back inside and did a set of abdominal exercises designed to help close separated ab muscles (as I recently felt the two sides of the rectus abdominus close two Tuesdays ago; it took that long!) and called it a night. I’m still following this pattern on days that aren’t pouring rain and when Boaz can watch the baby.

It’s slow going so far. I recognize that my body’s done an incredible thing and that it had to radically transform to do it. I have to be patient.

I also know that while it’s possible to get back to my pre-baby weight, it may not be realistically possible to get back to my old shape. As Mammy famously pointed out rather plainly to Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, my figure will never be the same after the structural remodeling that happened during pregnancy that shifted muscles, organs, ligaments, and even ribcage and pelvic bones:

But even if it can’t be as small as it was, my body can be strong and toned in its own way again. To that end, I’ll share my goals here as a way to stay accountable while I try to tighten up my soft mommy-body, which at the moment resembles a kangaroo:

  • Shrink back my post-baby 32″-waist measurement to 28.5″ (a full inch larger than my pre-pregnancy best)
  • Trim my 41″-hip measurement back to 39″ (a half-inch larger than pre-pregnancy)
  • Tone up the 24″-circumference of my upper thighs to 22.5″, roughly where it was when I took weight conditioning classes

Right now, this is visually where I am — stretch marks, linea nigra, and all:

Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. Long way to go!

Six weeks postpartum after my first run in seven months. 157 lbs. I have a long way to go!

I’ll be trying lots of methods to see what works, and I promise to share those, too! Hope you’ll stay with me on the journey… and wish me luck as I try to get back to fighting form!

-Ruth

Well, folks, baby Zeke (Ezekiel) has finally arrived (May 20) and your home-couple, Boaz and Ruth, couldn’t be more thrilled!

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In the past five weeks, we’ve been establishing feeding routines and learning how to deal with the unexpected joys and difficulties of parenting a newborn that needs us 24/7!

A lot of friends have wondered how we’re making it work financially with a baby, especially since my job at a private school as a marketing assistant doesn’t pay millions and Boaz only made something in the low-4-digits this year as a grad assistant and while working another part-time job.

For those of you contemplating young parenthood, I thought I’d put together a post with a few tips we’ve learned along the 9-month-plus way:

  1. Save Early.

Can’t say it enough. Boaz and I made sure when we married that we’d try to not touch certain funds in the event of a baby; I also set up a monthly automatic transfer in my bank account that was pretty modest, but which, over the nearly four years of our marriage, helped grow my savings account in a way that didn’t pinch later.  I’m glad we have it now, since the medical bills are sure to be insane, despite my ‘natural’ childbirth in the hospital (meaning, no meds, no epidural, no surgical/device interventions… you’d think it’d be cheaper, right?  Still had the baby in hospital…so, no. #AmericanHealthcareProblems)

  1. Don’t Snub Heirlooms or Hand-Me-Downs.

Grandma has held on to that cradle for a reason, and so long as it isn’t unsafe by modern standards, make use of it; we certainly did! (By the way, Ababy.com actually will cut a custom mattress to refurbish an old cradle!) Same goes for that friend at work whose children have outgrown their old clothes, toys, books, and other reusable baby accessories. Don’t turn them down, because your baby really won’t care whether he or she spits up on something old, something new, something borrowed (but washable), or whether it’s pink or blue.

  1. Second-Hand Furniture Saves Cash.

Somewhat in keeping with the above, keep an eye out at consignment stores, Goodwill, and garage sales in the months leading up to your baby’s arrival. I bought a diaper changing table with a few scuff marks on it that at one time came new from Target… for just $25 at a consignment shop where all proceeds from sales go to charity.  Hard-surfaced furniture like this is easy to re-sanitize and clean for use again.  Remember, too, that the timeline of use for baby furniture is pretty short for most parents: why blow $100-200 on a diaper changing table that will only get used for about 50-60 months between two kids (if you plan on having two?).  Even the “look” of furniture that’s wooden or hard-surfaced is flexible; if I want to, I can paint it later to better match a nursery “theme.” I already added storage baskets to its shelves to give me more space to organize, and I think they make it look pretty cute.

  1. Remember that Friends and Family Love Gifting (Prepare to be Showered).

Lots of women freak out thinking about all the things they will need to buy for their baby.  But, like all new brides, they should relax a little: surpassing even wedding showers, your gal pals and lady relatives boast a fascinating passion for buying cute (and necessary!) baby things for your baby shower.

  1. Control Your Maternity Wear Spending.

I was exceedingly blessed to be working in a school full of female faculty when I announced my pregnancy. I had a math teacher show up at my desk, who, realizing we were close to the same pre-pregnancy size, offered me the use of her maternity wardrobe, realizing that, since she and her husband were likely “done” and her sister-in-law (for whom she’d kept the wardrobe around) likely might snub some of the non-namebrand items, the best use for it in the meantime might be to loan it to me for the few short months in which I’d need the clothes. Awesome!

I wound up only needing to purchase a pair of jeans, a few sweaters, and my own maternity underthings (maternity and nursing bras and larger-waisted panties), in addition to a larger pair of shoes(!) to get by for the rest of my pregnancy, and I did this through both a local Goodwill with a maternity rack and through Target’s clearance sales. Even if the “look” I sported wasn’t quite me, it was still professional enough for work and I felt very comfortable – and grateful—to not have to shell out more money to make outfits appropriate for work wear.

Oh, and I should mention: for workout wear and sleepshirts, I raided my husband’s wardrobe for undershirts, jerseys and even his basketball shorts.  It amused him to see some of his larger stuff go over my huge belly, since I kept working out up until my 37th week.  My old yoga pants also went surprisingly far into my pregnancy with me, which was a nice surprise!

  1. Pregnancy Education and Fitness Can Be (Mostly) Free.

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    Exercise is important for both the birth and recovery. Here we are about 75 hours after the birth, on our first walk together. I was tired, but it was good for me and for him.

When you’re pregnant, you’ll get a lot of invitations from hospitals and even gyms (how do they find out?) via mail and other means that ask you to attend their Childbirth Education/Newborn Care Education/Prenatal Yoga/Prenatal Cardio classes.  These classes can cost an arm and a leg.

Luckily, most newborn care education can be found free or mostly free online (YouTube does have some available from reputable sources) and through your local library. I found that for childbirth education, dusting off that old card and picking up some of the old tapes on the Lamaze or Bradley Birthing Methods really worked well. Also, there are a huge amount of books out there on all these topics, and Amazon really helped me score some deals on these.

As a couple, we found that going this route gave us great flexibility: my busy student husband couldn’t make a series of classes consistently with me, but we could carve out some time on weekends to watch a chapter or two of a rented DVD together during his downtime. We also read through several books in bed together.

As far as fitness – There are a TON of prenatal yoga and fitness classes on YouTube!  Just be sure that you ask your doctor to advise you about what exercises are appropriate to your stage of pregnancy (hint: if a fitspert asks you to do crunches or other exercises on your back after your first trimester – run!).  I was able to keep up with yoga, walking, and even do some safe cardio (elliptical) and weight training (kettle bells are awesome for the pelvic floor) during my pregnancy, just by making use of the equipment at the school where I work and the mat I have at home.

  1. Shell Out For What’s Most Important – And Save in the Long Run.

    Baby Zeke - Just minutes old!

    Baby Zeke – Just minutes old and super-alert!

There is a very good time and place to spend your money when it comes to preparing for a baby, and that is in preparation for the birth itself!  I knew early on that I didn’t want a C-section delivery if I could avoid it, not only because of the long recovery, but also the sticker shock!  I also had read enough to convince me that an unmedicated, natural birth was the healthiest route for the baby overall – and would have the shortest recovery time for me, too.  But how could I go about securing that, or at least, giving myself the best chances for my best-case scenario?  Anything can happen during birth!

Statistically, there was only one element I had read about that really made a difference in what happened in the birthing room: the guidance and presence of a doula, or childbirth coaching professional, who emphasizes the mother’s emotional and physical comfort and applies evidence-based knowledge about birth positions to encourage labor progress.  A 2011 Cochrane Review (1) reported the combined findings from 21 randomized controlled trials, including over 15,000 laboring women, which revealed that doula-supported mothers were:

  • 28% less likely to have a C-section (with some individual studies reporting upwards of 60%)
  • 31% less likely to use synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to speed up labor
  • 9% less likely to use any pain medication
  • 34% less likely to reflect negatively on their childbirth experience

Those are certainly numbers not to ignore!  So what did I do?

More research – this time, into the work of local doulas in my area, reading review after review and even meeting some for coffee.  To my mind, it would be better to hire a doula to help me (for roughly $1,000), as a first-time mom, to engage in the childbirth process with less fear and with better support, than to simply “go it alone” and rely wholly on the Western-trained US Healthcare system, which has one of the highest C-section rates in the world, and take my chances with a $15,000 C-section bill or the traumatic psychological cost of a childbirthing scenario-turned-nightmare that happens to many women when interventions like Pitocin speed labor beyond the body’s (or baby’s) ability to cope.

Maybe my cost-benefit analysis was flawed, but regardless, I have no regrets.

My DONA-certified (2) doula was an incredible woman with a nursing background who took the time to get to know me before the birth so that we could establish a bond of trust and focus my childbirth preparations on evidence-based practices for labor support and pain management. She came to understand my birthing wishes and was ready and willing to support me in them at the hospital. There were a few times when interventions were offered to me by the hospital staff, with the major one happening when I showed up at the hospital with contractions 3 minutes apart, only to discover that, while 90% effaced, I was still only 2 centimeters dilated (“You could stay, and we could give you something to speed it along…” “No, no thanks.”)  I went home instead, and labored in the surroundings of home, where I could drink and eat when I wanted, shower for self-comfort, throw up in privacy when things got intense, shower again, and have my cat for additional company as I paced and swayed with my husband to encourage gravity to move things along.

When I returned to the hospital six hours later, I only had about 2 hours left to go before a bit more walking (which the staff wasn’t keen on me doing, but my doula monitored me during) got me to 9 centimeters—and through the transition stage, nearly ready for pushing.  The entire time, my doula was providing comfort measures, showing my husband how to help me get into better positions, and encouraging me to advocate for myself and what I wanted in a situation that otherwise may have felt out of my control.

In this scenario, my sense of control took away my fear. The pain of labor also became less shocking, more normalized, more progressive. Like the frog in the proverbial boiling pot, once I was in labor, even though it grew more intense, I also became increasingly more able to handle each new level of intensity. By the time I thought about maybe, just maybe allowing for some chemical pain intervention, the baby was practically crowning, and I was in the home-stretch (literally, stretch).  Again, my doula’s knowledge helped here: after an hour of pushing, she retrieved her rebozo band (similar to a scarf or exercise band), and gave me one end of it to pull on as I simultaneously pushed. With the help of this ancient form of applied mechanical physics, and three more pushes, baby Ezekiel arrived –pink and alert, with a perfect APGAR score, ready to meet us and eager for the breast. I’d never been more exhausted or more glad!

  1. Breast is Best – for Wallet and Baby.

While formula is arguably more convenient, it’s also expensive and doesn’t carry the benefits of real milk… so I’d encourage any budget-conscious prospective moms out there to prep themselves for breastfeeding if possible. And it DOES take preparation. I’m very glad I didn’t just assume that breastfeeding would come naturally to me; I took the time and took the classes and even saw a lactation consultant in advance (through my doula) who helped me recognize a good vs. bad latch, how to correct or modify a latch, how different holds affect a baby’s latch, and even how to make friends with my breast pump.  Days later, when I was in the muzzy, exhausted post-delivery state, when the nurses handed me my baby, I knew what to do to establish good feeding practices from the start and recognize bad ones.  I was happy to know when I was two weeks postpartum that my lactation consultant would still be available to help me (again, through my doula) when I noticed some odd things about Zeke’s latch that eventually led us to discover a tongue-tie, which has since been corrected.

  1. Prep for the Postpartum.

    This is what those strange little placenta capsules look like.

    This is what those strange little placenta capsules look like.

Lastly, when considering the recovery ahead after birth, I thought long and hard about my family’s history with depression and decided to try to prevent Postpartum Depression if I could.  One of the ways I did this was by simply taking daily walks and being sure to spend time with friends and family (this is free); the other way I did this Came with a small cost, but might have saved me heavier costs of therapy and medication: I had my placenta dried and encapsulated to dose myself with during that first month after birth.

Most mammals eat their placentas; so did women in many ancient human cultures. It’s weird but not unheard of–even today.

I’d met many women through my doula who had embraced placentophagy (consumption of the placenta) as a practice and swore by it. Since there are so few actual studies on this practice right now, it was only the very high number of personal anecdotal accounts from people I knew that swayed me.  And I have to say that, beyond the weirdness of it (which is diminished when taking placenta in capsule form), the effects of this nutrient and hormone-rich organ seem to have only benefitted me. My energy has been excellent, my post-birth anemia was checked quickly, and my mood had only very temporary lapses (I cried, I got over it, I went on to enjoy my day). Did the cost of encapsulation ultimately save me some money by supporting my overall physical and mental health? I really do think so.

That’s all of my tips for now. I hope some of these ideas were helpful or inspired you in your own pregnancy or pre-pregnancy journey.  Thanks for reading!

-Ruth

NOTES:

  1. Hodnett, E.D.; Gates, S.; Hofmeyr, G.J.; Sakala, C.; Weston, J. “Continuous support for women during childbirth.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011 Feb 16; (2):CD003766.
  1. Doulas of North America (DONA).

Want to know who my doula was, or need details about any other service I mentioned here? Message me; I’m happy to put you in contact!

Warm-up #1: Resetting the Stopwatch with Kairos Time

Soul Element Exercised: Timelessness

 

“In the spiritual life, God chooses to try our patience first of all by His slowness. He is slow: we are swift and precipitate. It is because we are but for a time, and He has been for eternity. . . . There is something greatly overawing in the extreme slowness of God. Let it overshadow our souls, but let it not disquiet them. We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and the lightning, in the cold and dark. Wait, and He will come.” – Frederick Faber

 

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” – Dallas Willard, on the health of the soul

 

It’s been a shocking two months since I’ve last written, and it shows how much I’ve become locked into the chains of chronos time (gr. scheduled, chronological time). But a little over two weeks ago, at 25 weeks along in my pregnancy, I took my last chance (pre-child) to go on an intensive retreat with 52 students from our Jesuit high school where I work, a retreat called Kairos (gr. “God’s Time”). It was a chance to step out of the office, step out of my responsibilities as a wife at home, and focus on the spiritual needs of myself and the community of the retreatants there with me.gods-time-1

The retreat was an intense four days of talks, reflections, prayer, small group chats, and emotional revelations, from seven in the morning to past midnight each night. Day two included my 25-minute talk as a retreat leader on the topic of “God’s Friendship”, which was simultaneously empowering and emotionally draining. It required me to dig down to things I hadn’t touched in a long time as I rehashed my history, including my faith struggles during my parents’ cancers, the pain and disorder of my father’s loss, and my own intense loneliness as I navigated those years feeling isolated in the experience due to my age and entrapment caused by my dependent status. To make sure the kids listening understood my perspective from these rough years of my late adolescence and very early 20s, I didn’t hold back on those elements; however, the meat of my talk arose from those moments (and I shared most of them) when I realized, sometimes many months after the events, that I wasn’t alone, in any of it, ever.

I won’t share the whole talk here. It was a long one. But I will say that writing it and giving it served as a reminder to me, as much as a revelation to some of the kids, that God is active in our lives in quiet ways, through gentle reminders, circumstantial blessings that are unexpected, and the generous hearts of others who follow an impulse that goes beyond mere human kindness – the kinds of gestures that can’t be explained by anything but the influence and presence of the divine.

I went back to my room that night to find a thick mail packet on my bed. Although most students (despite the secrecy surrounding this retreat) have come to expect that a part of Kairos is getting some letters from your loved ones as an encouragement, I was surprised as an adult leader to have notes from anyone but my husband, to whom I’d shared the details of the retreat ahead. As I opened note after note, I realized he’d done more than just follow an impulse to write me a little something for my Kairos mail; he’d hacked into my email to contact relatives, college friends, and even high school friends. I also opened several notes from many of my coworkers, sometimes surprised by their candidness as they shared their thoughts on their past four-and-a-half years with me.

And as I read past two in the morning in that Spartan little retreat room with one light, I remembered those many moments in my life when these note-writers had shown me that I wasn’t alone. I remembered, too, the intense spiritual talks with some of them that had influenced me in darker times.

Even though I came home on Day 4 from the retreat to almost immediately engage with the real-world and its demands again, the spiritual time-out allowed me to remember, as I embark on this next part of my life journey, this time as a parent at the end of my twenties, that I’m still not alone.

I just had to take the time to remember this truth by disengaging myself from the world’s notion of time and dipping into the non-scheduled space of eternity.

I need to do it more often, and I hope that anyone reading this gets inspired to take off for a little time to themselves to relive moments of God’s kindness in their lives. After all, it’s hard to understand and enjoy that kind of eternal, everlasting love unless we can turn off our calendar apps and schedulers for a little while and experience the time our soul is made to dwell in: an unlimited continuum not measurable with a minute-hand.

Taking that little space to breathe gave me one relieving piece of knowledge: that God measures our lives as a kind of ripening, and not as a rush.

 

Warm-up #2: Cleansing Breaths to Replace “Comparisonitis” with Gratitude

Soul Element Exercised: Peace and Perspective

 

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder

 

“To be truly grateful, you must not only recognize the benefits or gifts that come your way, but that they are not just random acts; they are not accidents. They are coming from Someone who has good intentions for you.” – John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

 

I’ve been home from the retreat for a few weeks now, doing what women in their third trimester tend to do: scurrying around completing childbirth education, scheduling prenatal medical appointments and tests, planning for the mountain of work to get done (or leave detailed guides on how to do) before maternity leave, and trying to outfit the necessities in the nursery (oh, and doing taxes, because it’s that time again. Joy.).

I admit, when I sat down in February to figure all this out in terms of my calendar and our budget, I felt frankly overwhelmed, anxious, and at times resentful.

Not that I wasn’t grateful to be having a healthy baby – I was and still am—but I had been running seemingly every day into women who are or have recently been pregnant and who have far more of this figured out, or have had the luxury of more personal time and more financial resources due to their husband’s full-time employment, than I do. These well-meaning women have kindly asked if I’d heard of this class yet, or if I’d joined a prenatal yoga group, or gotten scheduled for massages to help with pregnancy pains, or how often I was able to nap during the day (my answer – never, during the work week).

Pinterest before bedtime didn’t help. I stumbled with a sort of helpless nesting-instinct-driven-fascination onto blogs written by women who have had the resources and time to set up and document beautiful nurseries in well-proportioned houses, and buy adorable and expensive clothes, toys, knickknacks, and doo-dads. I came across scholarly articles telling me that I was a bad mom because I hadn’t also shelled out a lot more money to take this other special class, or have this special test or treatment, before my due date arrived.

I’d shut off my laptop some nights and wander the 20 feet into the single bedroom of our apartment which I realized had been all furnished with hand-me-down furniture that I’d cobbled together into something resembling “cozy”. I had one area by the window where I was hoping to fit in the rudiments of a nursery, and I was having trouble envisioning what would go where in a small room that was seemingly full already.

Even as I shut off the lights, the smallness and the shabbiness of the room still dimly shadowed my mind as I thought back to the sparkling affluence and beauty of the things I’d looked at others enjoying on the web as other couples filled up their big nurseries and big houses with exciting things for their newborn.

And then, on the penultimate weekend of February, my in-laws arrived to offer a cradle that had been in the family for decades. My husband had once slept in it, and other kids on that side of the family, too. And in our tiny apartment, it was a better answer than a huge crib, at least for a little while. It came inside with us from the backseat of their car, out of the cold and snow.

This is the little cradle with so much history.

This is the little cradle with so much history.

As I polished up the old wooden cradle and gave it an experimental rock, I noticed some things about it. The first was that it had been well-sanded to a gleamy smoothness before it had been stained, and its components had been put together entirely by hand using a tongue-and-groove design; there’s not a clunky nail in sight. And then, as I looked closer at some of the scratches and nicks in the wood, I recognized places where wedding rings, toys, and maybe other furniture had scraped this cradle as babies were placed in and lifted out of it, from years and years in my husband’s family, in days and nights of loving routine and fretful concern.

I thought about the hours spent in previous generations sitting beside this cradle, and all the sudden, all of it – the stuff on Pinterest with that posh designer feel, the anxiety I felt about putting the nursery together in time, the worry I felt about finances being there when we needed them – it just went away.

And I remembered to be grateful for what we already had, which was all that was really going to matter: that this child would be born with a loving extended family and the commitment my husband and I have for each other. That’s all that most babies for thousands of years have ever been able to ask for, and it’s all that any expecting mom can really hope for.

 

But on that note about all this other baby stuff, stay tuned for some upcoming posts about Bringing Up Baby on a Budget….

It’s been several months, readers! I apologize. It’s been a wild ride.

And really, it’s funny that my last post in September was about a DIY facial; the breakout I experienced at that time was due to a rush of progesterone, which was one of many biological clues (and one prove-it-all test) that led to this announcement to Boaz:

Baby announce collage

Can you read it? The moment was captured live on September 17 on my smartphone, so it’s a bit blurry at this size. My message next to the sticky bun says, “There’s a ‘bun’ in the ‘oven’!”

I’ve confided on this blog before that I (hence, we) have been using the Fertility Awareness Method for nearly two years – first, to avoid pregnancy naturally (successfully, too), and then, more recently in August, to reverse the pregnancy-avoidance method to attempt to conceive. I don’t know why I was so convinced that it would take us months and months to conceive on any method, but I was pretty darn wrong.

So, the last few months, I’ve been busy, busy, busy, in addition to being sleepy, nauseous, and hungry, to the point of coming home from work and making dinner, eating it, and falling asleep in my plate instead of writing blog posts.

The second trimester is definitely here now, though, so I’m feeling much more like myself . . .

. . . And at the same time, not myself. Because at the moment, I’m essentially two people in one body.

What a strange way to start off 2015.

As weird a body-space as I’m occupying now, the head-space of this change in state has been even stranger. Everyone has heard stories about the bizareness of pregnancy dreams and cravings and so forth, but no one warns you about the philosophical space you enter.

One of the more persistent thoughts I’ve had as I entered 2015 has been this:

I’m a soul, nurturing another soul. Whoa.

It’s thought-fodder enough to really shape my resolution this year:

I want to learn how to feed my soul so that I can ultimately nurture my child’s.

That gets into some tricky grounding, though. After all, what even is a soul? And why is it that nobody (not even in most churches, folks!) seems to ever talk about it, or seem care about it anymore?

We live in an era of history where the shape of the body and the accomplishments of the mind are EVERYTHING. Our society chases new fitness and diet regimes, running until we have to replace our knees, then spend tens of thousands on degrees to prove we know what we know in the hopes of getting hired, making money, and enjoying life.

But we forget that neither the body nor the mind (or the material gains we make from them) are guaranteed to last – just ask anyone in a hospital spending what thousands of dollars they once had in savings on cancer treatments, or chat up one of the pleasantly confused old citizens wandering around your local nursing home.

I want to give myself, and my child, the only kind of health and wealth that lasts beyond this life.  

So, in this post, I want to begin exploring what a soul is, and what a healthy versus an unhealthy soul does. There’s a lot of (older) literature written about the soul, and there’s a lot to pull out of it in an attempt to define something so ineffable. Please feel free to jump in with your own gleanings from what you’ve read and discovered!

Defining the “Soul”

When most of us think of the word soul, the mostly widely-recognized early Western-world definition of the soul springs to mind without our realizing it, simply because this early definition defined so much of our foundational thinkers’ philosophies. Rendered in Greek as ψυχή, or psychē, it is loosely translated as the “life, spirit, consciousness,” closely related to the verb for breathing or blowing, essential for life; more recently in human history, it has served as our root for the word psychology (the study of the soul). We owe the popularity of this root word to Plato’s Republic, in which Plato presents the soul in three parts: logos (logic, mind), thymos (emotion, spiritedness, our response to the action in our world, considered masculine) and eros (the desires and wishes, considered feminine), which all strive to rule the will of a person. In Plato’s view, in a balanced, spiritually healthy person, logos rules the other two elements, and so commands the psyche. Like his teacher, Socrates, Plato believed that the soul, though influencing the physical body, survived after death, unlike the physical body.

In Hebrew tradition, the word for the soul is nephesh, likewise meaning “vital breath,” and, similar to Plato’s view, is an entity somewhat distinct from the body, although it nevertheless imbues life to the physical form on Earth through the touch of the divine.

Due to Septuagint-based translations of the Hebrew scriptures, many Christians pass over the word nephesh without even realizing that it refers to the soul when they read the English versions of Genesis 2:7 (“The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [or soul, since this is nephesh].”), and the Psalms (such as Psalm 49:8, often translated as “The ransom for a life (nephesh) is costly; no payment is ever enough.”), and even the Torah-building law book of Deuteronomy (in Deut. 4:9a, the English Standard Version translates most correctly, “Only take care, and keep your soul (nephesh) diligently.”)

Other times, the Septuagint renders nephesh directly into the English word soul or spirit, most notably in the Psalms, which depict some behaviors of the soul: yearning for the divine (and in many places, responding to the sublime as a connection to the divine), feeling unrest, and enjoying celebratory praise and giving blessing, as well as enduring beyond life, leaving behind an empty body. Here are some examples:

Psalm 43:5a: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”

Psalm 63:1: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Psalm 103:1: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”

Psalm 116:7: “Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.”

Psalm 146:4: “When their spirit (here, denoted as ruach, meaning “breath, wind, spirit”) departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.”

This last Psalm uses the word ruach, which also has a few other instances of use in the Old Testament canon, including uses that tell us more about the soul or spirit. I’ll summarize what I found: A person’s “spirit” has many characteristics, including unfaithfulness (Psalm 78:8), sincerity (Psalm 32:2), and humility (Isaiah 57:15). The “spirit” can also be unsettled, even crushed (Joshua 5:1), but it can also be restored and brought back to health (Isaiah 57:15).

In the Christian New Testament, the word psyche (sometimes rendered psuche) is predominantly used for the soul (this is presumably Koine Greek rather than Plato’s Classical Greek). Jesus’ teachings frequently mention the word, and it’s re-emphasized again in the apostolic writings. All these instances agree that the soul is eternal, valuable, and able to be damaged by darker forces and burdened by evil doings (this is remarkably similar to ancient Egyptian beliefs recorded in the Book of the Dead, by the by).

Here are just a few example verses:

Matthew 16: 26 –[Jesus speaking:] “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul (psyche)? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Matthew 10:28- [Jesus speaking:] “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (psuche). Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23 – [Paul writes:] “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul* (psuche) and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

All of this is some heavy theology. But the point is pretty clear. The soul is important. We should care about it. But how do we figure out how to do that?  Maybe it’s best to look at what the unhealthy soul and the healthy soul look like for some clues.

What a soul so often lacks is the quiet needed for clarity. We live in a noisy, attention-seeking world.

How an Unhealthy Soul Behaves

 “Because my inner life is invisible, it is easy to neglect.” – John Ortberg

The soul seems to be a fragile thing in scripture and even in Platonic philosophy. Since it serves as the harbor for the complexity of our personal traits, spiritual energy, and competing desires as well as acting as the burden-bearer of our life experiences, it is prone to great unrest.

Theologian Dallas Willard devoted a great portion of his life to understanding the behaviors of the soul; one of his students, John Ortberg, boiled down some of the behavioral patterns of souls in poor health using one of the parables of Jesus from Matthew 13: 3-9, the Parable of the Sower (Ortberg, 54-60). This parable outlines three unfulfilling attitudes of various “states of soil” (which the reader understands as representing the states of various people’s souls) as they respond to a generously given “seed” (a message from God or the divine):

Hardened: This is a soil (soul) that has surrounded itself with a protective shell of bitter cynicism or suspicion after bearing the burdens of a life made difficult through sources of continual, overwhelming fear. Good things that try to grow here never even get the chance to take root.

Shallow: This is a soil (soul) that has a very shallow level of growthful depth, caused by a preoccupation with immediate gratification and comfort that leaves no room for “staying power” or capacity for commitment beyond that initial gratification. This is a soil that won’t give the best of itself to nurture anything. What good things try to grow here unfortunately die quickly.

Thorny/Cluttered: This is a soil (soul) whose focus is entangled with externals that seem important – the pursuit of a material lifestyle, awesome reputation, or unique and exciting experiences— that choke out its desires for the more valuable, simple, less glamorous blessings that come from the divine. Good things that try to grow in this soil have to constantly compete and do battle with the myriad pleasures and status-boosters that this soul desires.

Sad thing is, none of us choose to have souls in these conditions, but they do happen—to all of us, I think, just at various times of life. And when they do, they alter our psychological (our psyche’s) mindset completely, blinding us to the deeper truth of our circumstances. It can lead to our isolation or alienation from friends, cause rifts in relationships, or set us up for disappointment and heartache in other ways. Often, we look back on these periods of poor soul-health later in life with regret, recognizing at last the many missed opportunities or the time-wasting pursuits (or even relationships!) that we were too blind to see for what they really were while we were rolling around in our bad soul-dirt.

I’d love to try to protect myself in the future from having more of those regrets, and teach my child to keep him or herself balanced to avoid these spiritual pitfalls . . . but life, it seems, can really throw us all for a loop.

How a Healthy Soul Behaves

“A soul,” explains John Ortberg in Soul Keeping, “is what integrates your will (your intentions), your mind (your thoughts and feelings, your values and conscience) and your body (your face, body language, and actions) into a single life. A soul is healthy – well-ordered – when there is harmony between these three entities and God’s intent for all creation. When you are connected with God and other people in life, you have a healthy soul” (43).

Keeping this in mind, there are a few specific ways that a healthy soul then behaves:

A Healthy Soul Stays in Alignment with What It Values.

I think it’s hard to feel settled within ourselves when we observe occasional hypocrisy in our own behavior. Worse, inconsistency within our actions can become even a little pathological, leading to disordered thinking and behavior over time. But when our souls are consistently aligned with what we most deeply value, we gain a deep spiritual contentment and true sense of being where we are meant to be. One of the prayers I’ve learned at my job at a Jesuit high school comes from Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., and it goes like this,

“Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.”

This kind of empowering commitment gets our butts off the couch and out there with other people who need us. It’s a powerful, meaningful way to live and to see life.

A Healthy Soul Finds Contentment.

. . . But not by going out the door looking for something/someone to give it contentment, but by practicing the art of gratitude for what is already present.

How often do we forget how blessed we truly are? Friends, family, even our abilities, all of it is really a gift. We forget that, sometimes! But when we remember to be grateful, we no longer feel the need to go restlessly searching on, seeking that one other thing we need to make us happy. We find happiness in the moment.

We remember, too, that God is a part of that happiness, when we see how little of what we had was actually earned by our actions. “Praise the Lord, my soul,” writes the Psalmist in Psalm 103, “and forget not all His benefits . . . who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things . . .”

A Healthy Soul Draws Sustenance from Something Other than the Self.

We live in an age where even well-meaning people say, “Take care of yourself!” when we feel run-down or are faced with a difficult trial. While it’s sensible to care for our bodies with adequate rest and nourishment, a soul finds its sustenance beyond the bounds of our bed and board, and certainly finds better food for growth and thought when we aren’t too focused on ourselves.

When we’re run down by the demands of our draining, self-filled lives, our souls miss the replenishing focus and direction provided by the divine. We often forget the power of prayer in this regard, but as Francois Fenelon, an erstwhile royal tutor to King Louis XIV (who fell out of favor when he stood up to the monarch) discovered while in a very stressful exile, “In order to make your prayer life more profitable, it would be well from the beginning to picture yourself as a poor, naked, miserable wretch, perishing of hunger. . . These are true pictures of our condition before God . . . and God alone can heal you” (qtd. Ortberg, 87).

A Healthy Soul Has No Need to Become Anything Else.

A balanced, well-nourished soul that is connected to others, content with its own resources, and is connected to God is virtually unstoppable. It gives the soul-bearer an oddly glowing, resilient, hard-to-drag-down quality, even in tough times. It also grants the soul-bearer the kind of un-self-concerned freedom, inner strength, and courage that’s needed to reach out to others in need in ways that are deeply meaningful and life-changing. There is a ton of value in having a soul that’s in this state, because this in itself is extraordinary in terms of its spiritual potential.

In the words of Dallas Willard, “You are an unceasing spiritual being with an eternal destiny in God’s great universe . . . The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity.”

But of course, getting to this point can really take some work. Join me in the coming weeks as I come around to this topic again in a mini-series of posts called “Workouts for the Soul.

In the meantime, happy, soul-nurturing New Year to you all!

Ruth

NOTES:

* There are some disagreements about the role of the soul versus the spirit among Christian theologians; some view them as interchangeable, as “spirit” (rendered pneúma or ruach in Greek ) closely resembles the meaning of nephesh in Hebrew (both referring to breath, as in breath of life of the divine). But there’s also a lot out there about whether the soul and the spirit are separate entities, as it appears sometimes that they are used interchangeably, and at times, as separate and defined entities.

My take on this debate rests on Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, bone and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” From this metaphoric phrasing I (admittedly simplistically) extract that soul and spirit are loosely both a part of the same spiritual force, although with defined functions, like a bone contains marrow, with the ossified tissue of bone playing a different, but supporting role to marrow tissue. To me, though, this whole argument really isn’t terribly important; regardless of the roles of each, both spirit and soul point to the deepest, most essential and spiritually-enduring parts of us.

Non-linkable Citation:

Ortberg, John. Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. Print.

I am so shocked sometimes at what store-bought “natural” chemical peels cost!

But I sure do love the bang that those lightly acidic zingers do for the face in terms of killing off acne bacteria and revealing fresh, glowy skin cells! At 27, my skin has slowed down its cell turnover enough that I often see dullness, but it still creates enough oil for acne…So, needing a facial is rather common for me!

What does a girl do when she needs a facial and can’t justify the $35-a-jar stuff from Sephora in her budget?

She goes to the produce aisle and raids her cabinets!

All the ingredients are there. Let’s grab some:

  • Baking Soda
  • Honey
  • Fresh lemon (cut in half, or if a big lemon, in quarters)

Got your goodies yet?  We’re ready to do this thing.

Enjoy this awkward step-by-step shot from my iPhone at night. Wonderful photography, I tell ya!

 

Step 1: Prep the Natural Chemical Peel

Note the Aldi's products. See? Saving money already!

Note the Aldi’s products (honey and baking soda). See? Saving money already!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour the honey on first after you've squeezed the lemon a bit.  The honey has natural antibacterial properties!

Pour the honey on first after you’ve squeezed the lemon a bit. The honey has natural antibacterial properties!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then add the acid neutralizer: Baking Soda. The honey will keep it separate from the acidic lemon juice until you're ready to apply it all to your face. And the baking soda is a nice exfoliant!

Then add the acid neutralizer: Baking Soda. The honey will keep the soda separate from the acidic lemon juice until you’re ready to apply it all to your face. At that time, the baking soda makes a nice exfoliant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 2: Prep the Face by Cleansing

Off with makeup!  I'm using Trader Joe's green tea soap.

Off with makeup! I’m using Trader Joe’s green tea soap. If my Clarisonic had a new head, I’d use it instead of a towel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 3: Gently Rub on the Mixture

Boy, you can see how badly I need this. All broken out on the forehead and chin.  Ick!

Boy, you can see how badly I need this. All broken out on the forehead (and chin, not shown). Ick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 4: Try Not to Pick at the Lemony Bits as Mixture Sits for 5 Minutes

Failing at not picking/dabbing at the bits of lemon flesh leftover.

Failing at not picking/dabbing at the bits of lemon flesh left over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 5: Rinse Completely Off

All clean!

All clean!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 6: Put on Your Anti-Agers and Moisturizers of Choice

 

Love, love, love this stuff. And it's so cheap on Amazon. At night, I add a little coconut oil to this for moisture.

Love, love, love this stuff. Smells like orange and vanilla and is full of retinol and Vitamin C. And it’s so cheap on Amazon considering how long a bottle lasts! At night, I add a little coconut oil to this for moisture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the day, I use the Simple Moisturizer with SPF 15 when I'm not spending more than an hour or two outside.

During the day, I use the Simple Protecting Moisturizer with SPF 15 when I’m not spending more than an hour or two outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 7: Wait a Few Days and Repeat As Needed… Until You See Results

 

LEFT: Age 27.5. RIGHT: Age newly-22.

LEFT: Age 27.5.
RIGHT: Age newly-22.

 

 

This is after about 10 days, doing the Lemon-Honey Peel twice and resting a few days in-between. I’m still a little broken out on the “phone-side” of my chin, but I think a lot of my former “glow” is restored. What do you think, reader?

Until next time, your stingy, citrus-y friend,

 

Ruth